Bhavani Dayani

Durga 2

Bhajan literally means Worship. Is it just coincidence that it also means sharing in Sanskrit?  Because singing Bhajans is often a shared experience, done as a group. Normally the lyrics and melody are simple enough to be picked up by most people.

My mother was part of such a Bhajan group and once a week she would march us two under-10 girls to join the group. We were in Kolkata then, I remember her Bhajan group being near Rashbehari Avenue, close to a park. If I was good and sat still for the hour the session lasted, she would buy me a lolly on the way back home. A pink and white cigarette sized stick was my favourite and that is what I got each week! In the Bhajan group, people would take turns in leading a song of their choice. They would sing a line and the whole group would follow. My mother was a good singer but being the anxious kind, she would meticulously practice one or two Bhajans on the off-chance that she would get the chance to lead – as far I remember, one just butted in and started the moment someone else finished. Being hesitant, she would often not get her chance. Even in these places there was politics and one-upmanship! Still, there was always some nice prasad (food offering) at the end to look forward to!

I too got a chance to lead a bhajan once. I was 18 and taking part in a week-long Spiritual Camp for young people. On the first day, there was an impromptu bhajan session. After a number of songs had been sung, I took courage in my hands (I am not a good singer) and took the lead. Always embarrassed about my high pitched squeaky voice (I can’t sing but I do have a good ear!), I deliberately started in a very low pitch and soon I was in trouble in the lowersthayi.  I still remember someone sniggering from behind.  I was so embarrassed! One never forgets the shame of one’s childhood failures, does one? Needless to say, that was the end of my bhajan leading (or public singing) career!

Today I have chosen a Bhajan which has been made famous by Parveen Sultana, one of the foremost Hindustani classical singers of our times. Take simple lyrics and melody and give it the expertise of a classical singer with years and years of training and experience, and it becomes a gem! This well known Bhajan is in praise of Bhavani (Durga). It is set to raag Bhairavi of the Hindustani system.

भवानी दयानी महा वाकवाणी
सुर-नर-मुनि जनमानी सकल बुध ज्ञानी
जग जननी जग दानी महिषासुर मर्दिनी
ज्वालामुखी चण्डी अमर पददानी

bhavAnI dayAnI mahA vAkvANI
sur-nar-muni janamAni sakala budha gyAnI
jaga janani jaga dAnI mahishAsura mardinI
jvAlAmukhI chaNDI amara padadAnI


Filed under Bhajan, Hindustani Classical Music, Parveen Sultana

15 responses to “Bhavani Dayani

  1. Hello Suja,
    I loved your description of that faraway memory – going to mum’s Bhajan class! Thanks. I recently had a chance to ressuscitate family memories, because I had the idea of asking relatives for their Christmas memories last Dec 24, which I wanted to serve as a special event around the fireplace on Christmas eve. About twelve or so members of my family (most of them English, I have to say – maybe the French have less of a link to the magic of Christmas) sent me their contributions, and we spent about an hour an a half with my children discovering what their grandparents, aunts and cousins had lived when they were young. It was a wonderful moment. (every year I try and organise something of that kind for Christmas, I don’t know what I’ll come up with this year!)

  2. Thank you Yves, I am glad you enjoyed my story 🙂 My life seems to have a ‘background score’ of all kinds of music just like Hindi films do 🙂
    What a nice idea, Christmas stories from older generations to make up a new Christmas story for the new generation ! Did you record it so that they can share it with their children one day? These memories of family are so very precious, one doesn’t realise as a child..

    • No, I didn’t record what we read and said in reaction, it didn’t cross my mind. But I’m very wrong if I say that we didn’t all remember every moment of it! I’m sure the children will keep this special Christmas in their minds for their own little ones one day!

  3. Ramesh

    Parveen Sultana’s music is breathtaking. Lovely piece. Nice snippet that Bhajan means both worship and sharing in Sanskrit.

    Maybe in one of your posts you would outline the Hindustani system of ragas .

    • Thank you for the comment Ramesh. I am glad you liked Parveen Sultana’s bhajan, I have listened to this bhajan since childhood and have always found it very touching. I must disappoint you about Hindustani raga system though; my knowledge is too poor for me to write. But I will do some research to see if there are any interesting blogs out there on the subject and let you know.

  4. Chitralekha

    This is my favorite bhavani and one of all time greats, since it is in bhairavi
    It is a great way to end a bhavani program.

  5. Sharada Satalekar

    What to say of Parveen Sultana ! She is the Rani of Raga Hamsadhwani ! And the bhajan “Bhavaa`ni DaYaani” by her indeed is a Classic. She is the ONLY vocalist who sings the “Tarana” today ! Others have dropped it as it is a contribution of “Muslims” (the other) to Hindustani Classical Music ! But Parveen Sultana is just a Padmashri.. while a film-singer like Lata is a Bharat Ratna (Thanks to Politics. She got it entirely due to Shivsena and Bala Thackerey support). Ever since Lata was awarded the Bharat Ratna., the Padma Awards were “de-valued”.

    • Thank you Sharada for your comments. Parveen Sultana is indeed a gem amongst gems, we are indeed lucky to have someone of her calibre in the musical world of India. As to the politics of music, I am afraid I don’t get into it. I wish the arts can be kept politics-free but I also know that it is a naïve wish. So let us just enjoy the music and not worry about awards.
      Cheers. Suja

  6. Narasimha Raj

    Feb.06. 2013
    Suja, thank you for choosing Parveen Sultana’s “Bhavani Dayaani . . ”
    Last night, by chance I sat ‘trance-fixed’ watching/listening-to Parveen Sultana perform at Dover Lane Music Conference (date unknow – as I tuned in to DD Bharati just after 8 P.M.). After her mesmarising treat(ment) of the lines “Baalama Jaawore Jaa . .” for nearly an hour, she sang the Bhajan “Bhavani Dayaani ..” and ended with the Bhajan “Sai Ram . . “. Yes, I sat TRANCE-FIXED!
    This led me to a bit-of-combing-the-Web about Parveen Sultana and I’m glad I came across your ‘Blog-post’.
    I was as TRANCE-FIXED last night as I was in the 1960s when I watched/listened to Parveen Sultana during Bangalore Gayana Samaja Music Festivals, or when I saw/listened to her perform at Sawai Gandharva Sangeet Mahotsav in Pune during the late 1970s.
    Invariably she sang “Bhavaani Dayani” then – as she did on the Program I watched on DD Bharat last night.
    You have rightly said (and I QUOTE from you ) : “Take simple lyrics and melody and give it the expertise of a classical singer with years and years of training and experience, and it becomes a gem!”
    (Un-quote) : This GEM, Parveen Sultana has kept polishing/refining, for years & years and ‘sharing-her-Worship-of-Music’ with her listeners. May she delight listeners for many more years.

    • Thank you Raj for your comments 🙂 I loved to read of your experience of listening to this song over the years. How lucky you are to have seen Parveen Sulatana refine this gem over the years! She is indeed wonderful!
      Cheers. Suja

      • Narasimha Raj

        Narasimha Raj
        Feb.09, 2013
        Suja, The Bhajan “Bhavani Dayani” sung by BPS is humming in my ears!
        In my earlier comment, I notice that I chose a wrong word “TRANCE-FIXED” while I meant SPELL-BOUND/ENTHRALLED/CAPTIVATED. (Yes, I was ‘captivated’ – both by her Bajan as well as by her looks. She is as lovely as she was in the late 60s or early 70s)
        I downloaded her Bhajan and added it to the Media Library Folder
        – Devotional Songs which I listen to every morning.- on my PC
        Her rendering actually creates the ‘Bhaava & Ras’ in the audience! That’s her greatness.

      • Captivated is a good word for how we music lovers feel about music 🙂 Wishing you peace and happiness from her music,

  7. Abhishek Raghuram sang this song in today’s concert at Narada Gana Sabha. It was mesmerizing. I came across this post while searching for this song on the net. I have been following your blog for sometime now and am enjoying it.

    • Thank you for you comment! Aren’t you lucky, having heard this great song in person!! I am happy to hear from fellow music lovers, do come back again!
      Cheers. Suja

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